MECHANICSBURG – Central Cambria was on the verge of seeing its volleyball season end on a quiet note Tuesday, with the Red Devils facing a large deficit in a match that showed little sign of turning around.
Then, improbably and abruptly, the Red Devils turned a match whose outcome was seemingly decided into a state playoff thriller.
In the end District 3 champion Trinity had just enough left in the tank, calling in a teamwide effort to overcome a remarkable Central Cambria comeback and claim a 3-2 victory over the Red Devils in a PIAA Class AA volleyball first-round game at Cumberland Valley High School’s Dome Gym.
The Shamrocks, who advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round, won by game scores of 25-17, 25-14, 25-27, 22-25, and 15-9. They led 22-14 in the third game before the District 6 runners-up rose from the deck and pushed it to a decisive fifth game.
“A little bit of the nerves got out there, and then we started playing our game a little bit,” Central Cambria coach Jason Layman said. “We started playing more carefree and having fun, and that’s the motto we went by all year long. After the first two, we realized one more and the season’s over. The girls never quit and gave it their all.”
The Central Cambria comeback, which saw the Red Devils take games 3 and 4 to tie the match after lopsided losses in the first two games, forced Trinity to take an all-hands-on-deck approach. A handful of Central Cambria errors aided the Shamrocks in grabbing an early lead in game 5, and a key stretch came when Kendall Myers, freshly returned from a lengthy injury layoff, notched three straight kills to give the Shamrocks a 10-5 lead.
“I was just trying to prove that I am there for my team,” Myers said. “I got put in, and my adrenaline was just so high. It was a big team effort. It was nobody playing for themselves, and everybody playing for each other.”
Central Cambria closed within 10-8 before Trinity turned to Dani Richards to finish the job. She put together a four-point service run that included an ace, one of her four on the night, to give the Shamrocks the cushion needed to close out the 15-9 win.
Trinity had looked to be well in command early, when a strong defensive effort propelled the Shamrocks to big wins in the first two games. The Shamrocks controlled things both at the net and on the floor, and Red Devils had trouble getting a ball to the floor; just four of Central Cambria’s points in the opening game came on the attack.
The Red Devils finally cracked the code of the Trinity block late in game 3, and the swings start producing points throughout that set and again in game 4. Central Cambria’s Julia Mobley was key in the latter, when she had a stretch of three kills and block to help swing things in the Red Devils’ favor.
“It was just a case of speeding up the offense a little bit and getting our passes on,” Layman said.
“The first two games, our serve-receive was a little bit off. Cleaning it up allowed us to run a faster offense and it opened a lot of things up for us.”
Central Cambria was led by Liz Bopp’s 12 kills and Mobley’s 10, while Kiersten Szpala had 34 assists, nine digs, five kills and three aces. Maggie Kudlawiec had 19 digs, while Cass Bezek had 16. For Trinity, Sajer finished the night with 19 kills, leading a balanced attack that saw Lauren Trumpy have 13 kills and Gracie Britten add seven; Britten also had six blocks.